Australia's surprising decision to switch confederations from Oceania to Asia a few years ago has served to improve the Socceroos on the pitch and to maintain their World Cup qualification record. Russia will be Australia's fourth consecutive finals appearance although they were forced to sweat blood to make it through two gruelling playoffs. The squad then guided by Ange Postecoglou were taken to the wire first by Syria, who forced extra time, and later a tough-tackling Honduras side who were repelled eventually by Mile Jedinak’s hat-trick in the return leg in Sydney to seal a place in Russia that was considerably harder to come by than Australia might have expected.
Postecoglou left the Socceroos somewhat unexpectedly after building a side that won the AFC Asia Cup in 2015 and demonstrated in Brazil a year earlier that they are a well-organised team who can compete at the highest level under the leadership of hugely experienced players such as Jedinak and all-time leading scorer Tim Cahill. In the absence of a clear generational renewal Australia will stick to their tried and tested blueprint in Russia and lean on that experience, complemented by a sprinkling of younger players in Jackson Irvine and Tom Rogic and potentially some untested prospects like 19-year-old Riley McGree and Groningen midfielder Ajdin Hrustic.
|DOB: 19/05/1952||Preferred system: 4-2-3-1|
|Matches: 49||W/D/L: 0/0/1|
The Socceroos have improved considerably over the last decade but this will be the final hurrah for a core of players including Jedinak, Cahill and Mark Milligan who have made Australia consistent if unspectacular. With a tougher path to the finals than anticipated and with Van Marwijk installed in January in place of Postecoglou it may be optimistic to expect too much from the Socceroos in a tough group and with one of the oldest squads in Russia but as has been the case since the turn of the century, Australia will be at the showpiece event once again. However, it should also not be forgotten that Van Marwijk - who has been hired only to guide Australia in Russia and will then step aside in favour of Graham Arnold - has a wealth of major tournament experience and led the Netherlands to the final at the 2010 World Cup.
|DOB: 15/09/1990||Position: Midfielder||Age: 27||Club: Huddersfield|
|Height: 175 cm||Weight: 68 kg||Caps: 29||Goals: 5|
With Jedinak and Cahill approaching the twilight of their careers at club level, even though they continue to be key to an ageing Australia side, it falls to Aaron Mooy to direct play on the pitch from his position in central midfield. Manchester City signed Mooy as a youngster and then loaned him out to their feeder club, Melbourne City, before the 27-year-old found his feet at Huddersfield. After achieving promotion with the Terriers last season, Mooy has been one of the side’s stand-out players under David Wagner’s tutelage in the 2017-18 Premier League season. Able to provide an attacking threat coming into the box and with a fine right foot, Mooy also has an eye for the final ball and is a danger from free-kicks.